Extensive layout changes, natural-looking materials, and unique details meet in this gorgeous home for two.
Be it Scandinavian, mid-century modern, or minimalist, many new homeowners tend to approach their renovations with a general style in mind. But that wasn’t the case for Jen and her husband Jieloon (@jjjenyoung) – instead, the look only fell into place through experimentation.
“We just knew that we wanted to use a lot of natural-looking materials,” says Jen. “You could say that the starting point [of the look] came from the stone-ish floor tiles and veneered ceiling – they were things we wanted from the start, and from there, we gravitated towards colours and materials that complemented them.”
With years of design experience under their belts, this home became a way for the couple to express their styles – which also culminated in a friendly competition that involved designing their own bathrooms. To find out more about the design process, we got Jen to give us the breakdown!
About the homeowners and their home
Jen (J): Both my husband Jieloon and I work in the design industry. I’m an architect, while Jieloon is an interior designer – it was actually his team that worked on this house!
This executive apartment is pretty old – if I remember correctly, it was built in 1995. It has a lot of little nooks and niches, which we used to create storage areas. That’s part of the reason why we have lots of carpentry, actually – we had to think of ways to fully utilise the space since the house doesn’t have a dedicated store room.
We were actually supposed to move in late last year, but Jieloon’s workers were busy with other projects, so we only moved in this year. I guess we didn’t want them to prioritise our house over other clients’ projects, and we weren’t in a hurry anyway. It was a good thing, since we ended up changing a few details here and there.
About the living and dining room
J: When we were planning the space, we agreed to keep the entire communal area open as it emphasises visual connectivity. Also, Jieloon and I host pretty regularly, so we wanted our guests to walk around freely without being restricted by doors or entrances.
At the same time, we wanted to encourage a communal vibe, so that’s where the island came in. It’s the first thing you see upon entering the house, and because it’s in the middle of the communal space, our guests naturally congregate around it during meet-ups.
But it’s not just a feature for our guests. Jieloon and I use it pretty regularly too – it’s where we put our things before heading out, where we prepare and eat our meals, and things like that. I think it’s one of the most heavily-used features in the house.
Layout-wise, we made the living room area bigger by hacking the walls of the old study. But there was this one column that we couldn’t hack, which stuck out like a sore thumb.
We had to think of some way to make it stand out less – and in the end, we created a little niche to display some things, and added a fake wall next to it so the entire thing looks a bit more intentional.
About the kitchen
J: We had to sacrifice some of the kitchen space to make way for the island. But it wasn’t really a big loss for us – while we do cook, it’s rarely heavy cooking, so making the kitchen smaller was something we could live with.
We actually didn’t intend to create this little niche behind the stove – originally, this was done to conceal the huge exhaust pipe here. But after boxing up the carpentry, it left a recessed area that we use to store our utensils, chopping board, and other things.
The subway tiles were chosen to make the look more interesting. Initially, we wanted to use kitkat tiles – but the price was crazy! And the grout lines would have made cleaning a pain (laughs). So, I think subway tiles were a good alternative.
About the corridor (the ‘in between’ closet)
J: Previously, the common bathroom door was situated near the corridor, but we ended up shifted the door to the service yard, just so that the entire corridor looks cleaner and neater.
Here’s where we have the ‘in between’ closet – you know how there are certain clothes you tend to re-wear before washing, like pants or jackets? They’re not exactly dirty, but they’re not clean, either – and because we tend to re-wear our clothes often, we thought that having an area dedicated to these ‘in between’ clothes would make a lot of sense.
About the master bedroom
J: The master is a combination of the original master bedroom and one of the junior bedrooms. Jieloon really wanted to have a nice feature area behind the bed, so he chose this marble piece – which, if you realise, is actually the same as the one in the foyer.
We bought the entire slab – I think it’s because we wanted to minimise grout lines, but in the end, we had no choice but to split it in two since the slab couldn’t fit inside the lift.
Personally, it’s not really my style, but Jieloon really fought for it as without it, the room will look a bit plain. I mean, I’m used to it now, but in hindsight, it does add that luxurious, hotel-like feel to the space, which was another thing that Jieloon was going for.
About the common and master bathroom
J: In terms of design, Jieloon and I have really different tastes. I can’t remember who said it, but as a joke, one of us said “hey, how about we each design one bathroom?” And it somehow became an actual thing.
Jieloon took the common bathroom. From the green subway tiles in the shower area and the oak cabinet, you can probably tell he likes a bit more colour.
Oh, and fun fact, the subway tiles are actually the same as the ones in the kitchen – I think he likes that these particular tiles have a variety of textures and designs that he could play around with.
On the other hand, I tend to play it a little safer. I prefer sticking with neutral colours, as they’re more timeless – with other colours, you tend to get bored with it after a while, or the colour itself goes out of trend.
Now, we have a little friendly competition. Whenever we have guests over, we’ll ask them to pick the bathroom they think is nicer. So far, I’m losing by quite a big margin (laughs), so I guess he’s the winner.
To sum up
J: It’s funny – some of our guests have said that the building exterior and our house are totally different. Outside, the flat looks quite rundown and uninviting, but it’s like a whole new world when you step into the house.
Getting the little details right took time and effort, but it’s worth it. While our design experience helped us with the technical stuff, it’s the little quirks – like our bathrooms, the displayed items, things like that – that make it really feel like ‘us’. It’s warm, cosy, and welcoming, and we love how it turned out!